Jurisdiction Logistics: Divorcing in Illinois
Before a civil action of any kind can be mounted in Illinois, it must be determined if this state has the right to hear it. This concept is called jurisdiction, and a court must have jurisdiction before any suit you file is permitted to move forward. In most situations, it is fairly easy to ensure a court has jurisdiction over your suit; however, the laws are quite specific.
Two Types of Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is defined as the extent to which a legal authority can reach. There are two types of jurisdiction, both of which most people are familiar with in at least a colloquial sense.
The first type is subject matter jurisdiction, which essentially grants a court the right to adjudicate a specific type of case—for example, the DuPage County Family Law division of the Circuit Court has subject matter jurisdiction over divorces in that area, while the state's Probate Court has jurisdiction over the disposition of wills, trusts, and other estates. Subject matter jurisdiction is almost always granted by law—as long as a suit is filed in the court that handles such cases, subject matter jurisdiction has been met.
The other type is personal jurisdiction, and it is the type of jurisdiction that is routinely misinterpreted. Essentially, if a court has personal jurisdiction over an individual, it is because that individual has had significant contacts with the forum. If you are a petitioner, all you have to do to grant Illinois courts personal jurisdiction over you is to be a resident. There is no waiting period to file a divorce—you could conceivably do so even before you moved to Illinois—but you or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least 90 days before a judgment can be handed down.
“Long Arm” Statutes
If you want to file your divorce in Illinois, yet your spouse has no contacts with the state and does not live in Illinois, then there still may be a way to ensure that jurisdictional requirements are met. States, often pass laws called long-arm statutes, which are intended to ‘reach' defendants who may not fall under their jurisdiction normally.
Illinois law specifically enumerates a list of actions by which someone can unknowingly or implicitly consent to jurisdiction, even if they do not live within the state or have not been there for years. Some of these include transacting business, committing a crime, or agreeing to certain types of contracts based in Illinois. However, there are several other acts by which someone agrees to be bound by Illinois jurisdiction. It is a good idea to keep in mind that you may be subject to suit in far more places than the area in which you live, should a cause of action arise.
Ask a Family Law Attorney for Help
Legal details can become confusing and derail your plans for a happier, healthier future. If you are contemplating divorce and need to ensure that every step is appropriately taken, contacting a knowledgeable attorney will help. Our Wheaton, Illinois divorce attorneys at MKFM Law are happy to assist you with your case and work hard toward an equitable outcome. Contact us today at 630-665-7300 to set up an appointment.